CMU School of Drama

Friday, September 16, 2016

Theater Director at Cal State-Long Beach Quits After Racially Charged Play Is Canceled

The Ticker - Blogs - The Chronicle of Higher Education: Michele Roberge resigned this week as theater director at California State University at Long Beach after 14 years in the post, the Long Beach Press-Telegram reports. Her resignation followed a disagreement with administrators over whether the university’s performing-arts center should host the racially charged play N*gger Wetb*ck Ch*nk.


Emma Reichard said...

This article poses a very interesting dilemma. Should universities have the right to censor art with questionable content? And to what extent are marketing and financial restrictions considered censorship? In this situation, it seems like university officials didn’t outright ban the play, but limited its ability to advertise and incentivize students to attend the show. If those elements are essential to the effectiveness of a piece, does imposing those limitations essentially censor the material? I’m not sure, in this exact situation, that it does, though I could easily see how in other situations this could very well mean the end of a production. It should also be noted that the students involved with the production believed the production to be challenging stereotypes, not perpetuating them. Which leads us to the question of, at what point is censorship no longer about removing harmful content, but about silencing any critique or discussion of said content? I’m not sure that either party in this situation was totally in the right. But I do hope this creates a dialogue about censorship on campus and in the arts.

Rachel said...

It’s difficult for me to make comments on articles like these (though I feel compelled to,) because I feel there are so many important details not being transmitted and so much I don’t understand about the intentions of the piece’s creators, as well as those who object to it and think there are no “teaching opportunities.” I think ultimately, to make an informed decision, I would have to see the performance before I could have any legitimate feelings one way or another.

And perhaps that’s the point… by not supporting the production financially, the university made it impossible for anyone to really decide for themselves. My tentative response is that I feel the piece should have been supported, especially because it was created by the minorities whose stereotypes it’s commenting on, so that a dialogue could be had amongst the wider community (rather than just a few professors) about whether it was worthwhile/educational and if not, why and what could be changed.

Antonio Ferron said...

I'm torn on this one. I'd have to actualy see the play in order to really understand this situation. From an outsiders point of view I can see how annoying it is to have a production stifled just because the university does not find it appropriate. But was the piece actually effective in the message it was trying to convey? I can see why the director chose to leave either way. Whether or not the school thought the piece was effective, an artist craves the right to express themself in whichever way moves them. I'm honestly so torn on this one and yet have so much to say about it. This was obviously not the correct place to perform such a piece. Some universities are much more conservative as to what they consider to be appropriate so maybe this unfortunately just wasn't the proper venue for it, as strong as it may have been. It's sad that art is often stifled and so many obstacles have to be overcome at times, but if you're persistent you can always find a way to have your message heard.